6–4, 3–6, 6–3.
The final results were with a total number of 51,954 in attendance, 4-sets of tennis and a staggering $3.5million in proceeds.
If you watched or followed the Roger Federer Foundation match in Africa, these were the numbers that mattered aside from the double serve of enjoyment and several aces in fans interaction.
I watched the match not just because of the two G.OA.Ts on the court, their epic level of friendship, mutual respect and, talent but because it was in Africa! Everything Africa is exciting no matter where in the continent you place it.
I wish this piece is all about that match, but it is not. It is not even about tennis from an analytical angle.
It is a piece that is closer to our experience as sports fans in African countries and the strictures considered acceptable for us.
If you have ever seen a sports event, you’ll see fans hold up all kinds of posters and banners. It is truly one of the great joys of sports-the freedom of expression (mostly).
At the match in Africa, albeit briefly, a little group held up a banner asking for ‘Open Africa’ at first glance, it made absolute sense! There is no country in the continent with a major grand slam, look at the numbers of the Roger match, it makes sense to have one. Create the right atmosphere, the proper prize money, intense promotion and, the investment-we’ll have one.
It made sense until I asked myself: why Africa?
Four Grand Slams
Eight World Masters 1000 tournaments
ATP World Tour finals
And other tennis tournaments all around the world and a player looking to make the top seed typically plays over 20 tournaments in a year in different locations.
Moving away from all the tournaments, let’s draw up numbers for the four major grand slams in a year.
Australia Open: Australia has a population of 24.6 million people
US Open: The United States has a population of 327.2 million people
French Open: France has a population of 66.99 million people
Wimbledon: The United Kingdom has a population of 66.44 million people
Every year, these tournaments are big-time money-making pipelines that welcome tourists and fans in their hundreds to these countries.
Aside from Australia that is a country and a continent, none of these tournaments are tagged as a continental event or held in continental capacities.
Putting it all context brings me back to my earlier question of Why Africa?
Africa: Africa has a total of 54 countries and a growing population of 1.216 billion people that not connected by rails, camel routes or a one-hour bus ride.
Match in Africa was in South Africa she has shown that with the structure in place, they can host a major tennis tournament and maybe the world’s fifth grand slam.
The problem with having Africa Open and treating an entire continent as a country with disregard of its diversity means in every sport the results are not in aces, they are a repetition of double faults and failed returns.
Everything does not need to have an ‘African’ tag. It takes away from the substance and uniqueness of the 54 countries, it births stories lost in the telling and it means growth is not linear.
You can’t focus on one country, tag it as Africa and convince yourself the continent is growing. It has always been the major fail of developing sports in the continent.
In FIFA’s partnership with CAF and with each new president and policy change; Investment in Africa is still very much seen and treated as a country.
Africa does not need continental Open countries in Africa can have one. Africa does not need to host tournaments every four years to grow-countries in Africa needs to focus on grassroots sports and domestic leagues in each country and this goes beyond men’s sports. Women’s sports are just as important. For growth to be truly linear and economically sustainable we need African solutions which means looking at the uniqueness and strengths of each country that makes up the continent.
Africa is not a single story.